December 7, 2019


The secret of creating happy societies (Sam Wren-Lewis, 12/07/19, The Conversation)

More recently, New Zealand introduced its first "wellbeing budget," with a focus on improving the wellbeing of the country's most vulnerable people.

Such initiatives tend to broadly agree over the conditions required for a happy society. According to the World Happiness Report, there are six key ingredients for national happiness: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust, and generosity. Scandinavian countries--which typically top the global happiness rankings (Finland is currently first)--tend to do well on all these measures.[...]

The more we focus on our list of desired things, the more we fail to see what really matters. When we are certain of the things that make us happy, and urgently try to achieve them, we fail to appreciate the value of the things we already have and the multiple unknown opportunities we have yet to discover. When things inevitably go wrong in our lives, we blame others or ourselves instead of learning from what happened.

Psychologists are beginning to understand the limits of this. Happy individuals tend to have humility as well as certainty; curiosity as well as urgency; and compassion as well as blame.

We can apply these same lessons on a national scale. Creating a happier society requires not just promoting what matters, but also promoting the capacities for discovering what matters.

We know this on an institutional level. In education, we know that it is important to promote curiosity and a love of learning as well as good exam results. In academia, we know that, although we can discover important scientific truths, almost all of our current scientific theories might be surpassed by other theories and we should remain open minded. We know that the appeal and relevance of religious institutions depends on balancing dogmatic teachings with mystery and curiosity--order and faith on the one hand, openness and flexibility on the other.

Creating a happy society does not just depend on creating the right conditions. It also depends on creating the right institutions and processes for discovering those conditions. The irony is that members of the happy society described at the beginning of this article--who tend to be at ease, untroubled, quick to laugh, expansive and self-assured--are probably less focused on what makes them happy and more focused on exploring what really matters--with humility, curiosity, and compassion.

Eliminating the labor component from wealth production will not only relieve economic stress but afford time to focus instead on what matters spiritually.

Posted by at December 7, 2019 7:54 AM